Unchanging Love, Unchanging God

Does God love you now as much as He ever will? Is there anything you can do to gain more of His love?

If you cannot find motivation enough in scripture to follow God’s commands without having His love for you called into question, then perhaps you are not His child. But if you are His child, know most assuredly that His love for you will never change, for it is not based on your choice of Him, but rather His choice of you. It is based on His righteousness and not your own. Therefore, do not fear that you will lose that love, or stress over gaining more of it, for if you are in Christ, then the following is actually true: God loves you completely right now, just as you are, and that will never change.

 

Why does God love us? How does He love us? These seem like appropriate questions to be asking at a time of year when we are celebrating God’s love as evidenced in Christ’s Incarnation. A thousand hymns proclaim to us the love of God, and yet there is some disagreement as to exactly how and why we receive that love. Does God love everyone equally? Does He love you now as much as He ever will? Is there anything you can do to gain more of His love?

Perhaps you have heard a statement like this at some point in your life: “There is nothing you can do to make God love you more. He loves you unconditionally.” I have certainly heard such things on numerous occasions. They are typically spoken as words of comfort to doubting hearts, or words of correction to those who pursue works righteousness. However, there are some who proclaim them unbiblical.

This is a topic of great practical importance for the average believer. It is no crime to want to understand if, how, and why God loves you. If we go to great lengths to pursue the love of human beings, then we surely ought to be putting in an even greater effort to earn the love of God Almighty. But is there any amount of effort that can earn God’s love?

Some debate whether God’s love is conditional or unconditional, or if in fact it is partially one and partially the other. These terms can have different meanings for various people, but the real issues at hand are whether God loves all human beings, if He loves them all in the same way, on what basis He loves, and if there is anything we can possibly do to increase His love.

In this essay, I will focus on God’s love for those who are in Christ. Scripture makes clear that there is a special love that God has for the elect: those whom He chose before the foundation of the world to be reconciled to Himself through the atoning sacrifice of Jesus Christ and the work of the Holy Spirit.

Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places in Christ, just as He chose us in Him before the foundation of the world, that we would be holy and blameless before Him. In love He predestined us to adoption as sons through Jesus Christ to Himself, according to the kind intention of His will, to the praise of the glory of His grace, which He freely bestowed on us in the Beloved.

Ephesians 1:3-6

This love of God—by which He draws us to Himself (John 6:44), makes us alive by the power of the Spirit (Ephesians 2:1-7), leads us from justification into sanctification (Romans 8:28-30), and empowers us to persevere to the end (Romans 8:37-39)—was not given to us on the basis of anything good in ourselves. God’s unconditional, electing love is demonstrated in that He acted to reconcile us to Himself before we showed any signs of repentance.

For while we were still helpless, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly. For one will hardly die for a righteous man; though perhaps for the good man someone would dare even to die. But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us. Much more then, having now been justified by His blood, we shall be saved from the wrath of God through Him. For if while we were enemies we were reconciled to God through the death of His Son, much more, having been reconciled, we shall be saved by His life. And not only this, but we also exult in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have now received the reconciliation.

Romans 5:6-11

God does not love us because we first loved Him. His love for us existed before Creation, even as it existed both before and after the Fall. It is the product of His eternal character, and on the basis of this love we are to love one another.

Beloved, let us love one another, for love is from God; and everyone who loves is born of God and knows God. The one who does not love does not know God, for God is love. By this the love of God was manifested in us, that God has sent His only begotten Son into the world so that we might live through Him. In this is love, not that we loved God, but that He loved us and sent His Son to be the propitiation for our sins. Beloved, if God so loved us, we also ought to love one another.

1 John 4:7-11

God does not simply feel love. He is love. This is difficult for us to understand, because we are not like God. Our love can come and go. It is only one part of who we are, and it is imperfect. Our emotions, thoughts, and actions are often contradictory, but in God there is no contradiction. That is why, as the Apostle John tells us in the passage above, His love provides the definition of the term and not ours. Any pure love that exists among human beings is due to the working of the Spirit in our lives.

It is very important to understand that God’s electing love belongs to His eternal nature, because this is what gives us the confidence that it will continue forever. It also helps us to understand that we did not earn that love. We did not receive it because of anything worthy in ourselves, but because of His gracious choice.

One of my favorite quotes about God’s love comes from Martin Luther in his 28ththesis for the 1518 Heidelberg Disputation. He wrote, “The love of God does not find, but creates, that which is pleasing to it. The love of man comes into being through that which is pleasing to it.” In the proof for this thesis, he added, “Rather than seeking its own good, the love of God flows forth and bestows good. Therefore sinners are attractive because they are loved; they are not loved because they are attractive… This is the love of the cross, born of the cross, which turns in the direction where it does not find good which it may enjoy, but where it may confer good upon the bad and needy person.”

It is a fallacy to assume that God gives His love to us because of anything pleasing in our thoughts, actions, or nature. Rather, His love is given to us freely and graciously, that we might be conformed to the image of His Son. It is God’s love that allows us to perform good works; our good works cannot make Him love us more. The love of God is essential to His eternal nature, which does not change.

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